I experienced the most terrifying and profound drug trip of my life last month.
Yes, the following article details my experience of tripping on a hallucinogenic drug called DMT; but I promise it’s not an obnoxious recount of how silly it made me and my friends act, or anything of that vein.
DMT, short for dimethyltryptamine (pronounced die-meth-ill-trip-ta-mean), is a chemical substance found in an enormous variety of plants. DMT is conjectured to be produced by the pineal gland of mammalian brains.
When smoked, DMT is perhaps the most powerful hallucinogen known to science – a statement about which I was skeptical only until I smoked it.
I need to pause here. I linked the word ‘conjectured’ above to an article that questions whether the brain’s pineal gland truly produces DMT.
The majority of what’s known about DMT was discovered by Dr. Rick Strassman, and expounded upon by him with clarity in DMT: The Spirit Molecule (not to be confused with the documentary by the same name). Much of that is conjecture. Conjecture reached through careful scientific inferences, but conjecture nonetheless.
For example: Though it has been proven that humans produce natural endogenous DMT, there isn’t any direct scientific evidence that indicates the pineal gland plays a roll in its biosynthesis. In fact, science has yet to demonstrate that the human brain has anything to do with the production of DMT.
However, studies have shown that other mammalian brains (e.g. lab rats’ brains) produce DMT, so it may be conjectured (given that we know DMT is produced somewhere in the human body) that DMT biosynthesis occurs in human brains as well.
From there, we may conjecture that it originates in the pineal gland because, on the molecular level, DMT is analogous in structure to other neurotransmitters such as serotonin and melatonin, both of which are produced by the pineal gland. (More info here).
I say this for the sake of not having to use the word ‘conjecture’ every other sentence during this article, but also because – as much as I hate to admit it – much of what I’m about to say lacks scientific verification. When it comes down to it, that’s only because DMT is extremely illegal and the government doesn’t want you to know about it. Fuckin’ government, right?
Regardless, given my immense respect for science, I feel implored to make bleedingly clear that this is a recount of my subjective DMT trip. Having said that, part of any subjective experience involves the subject’s beliefs. So just keep in mind that I’m the subject, and I believe some stuff about DMT that isn’t scientifically verified.
You’ll understand in a moment why all this matters.
Part One: The Mysteries of DMT
My initial interest in DMT was sparked by both its powerful nature and its connection to dreaming. Why did our species evolve in such a way? We know the purpose of structurally similar neurotransmitters; serotonin regulates our mood, while melatonin regulates our sleep cycle. So what does DMT regulate? What is it about the ability of our brains to excrete such a chemical that made our ancestors more apt in surviving and procreating than those born without it? The same can be asked of dreaming.
We all dream. Which – if you so happen to subscribe to the radical theory of evolution – means that dreaming must contribute some sort of benefit to a species’ ability to survive on Earth. It can’t be coincidental that those pre-homosapien ancestors of ours who dreamt just happened to out-live and out-fuck those who didn’t. In the very least, something about dreaming must fuel our desire to live and fuck, if not our ability. And without DMT, we wouldn’t dream.
There’s a lot of good theories surrounding DMT. I won’t delve into them, but the main hypothesis of Dr. Strassman’s work is that DMT explains the phenomena of near death experience. In other words, that your brain releases a surge of DMT at the (real or perceived) onset of death. Almost as though it’s a necessary component of reaching the afterlife.
I mean, were an afterlife – or spiritual realm – to indeed exist, must there not also exist some sort of physical attribute within us with which we connect to it? Wouldn’t there need to be a real, feasible link between us and the afterlife?
Perhaps this peculiar neurotransmitter is that link.
But I digress. For further info, please consult Mr. Joe Rogan. (Yes, the Fear Factor guy).
I suggest you actually give it a listen, it’s quite interesting. Besides, Joe Rogan is a funny fucker.
I’ve been aware of DMT for some time, but was never interested in it enough to read about people’s experiences. Besides, I’ve always been the kind of drug user who likes to go into the experience with no preconceptions of its effects – a factor that turned out to be important with regard to DMT.
Other than doing research to ensure it wouldn’t kill me or make me [more] insane, Mr. Rogan’s experience was the only one I heard prior to mine. Upon listening to the above YouTube video, I made the decision that if I ever had the opportunity to do DMT – in a safe, friendly environment of course – I would jump at the chance.
Part Two: Anticipation
That chance presented itself about a month ago. Two of my close friends joined me. We decided to do it one after another as the effects, while extremely intense, only last about 15-20 minutes. I went third.
The friend who provided the DMT, whom I’ll refer to as Alec, said he was giving us each a heavy dose. Unaware of what constituted a normal dose, I didn’t think much when I saw he was weighing them out to ‘0.05’ grams. I figured that by “heavy dose” he meant a few extra milligrams. In fact, each hit was about twice the amount users typically smoke to reach DMT’s full effects.
DMT synthesized for recreational use typically (or perhaps exclusively for all I know) comes in one of two forms: a white crystalline powder or a fine yellowish-white powder. I don’t know anything about how either are synthesized, or even if one is more effective. All I know is Alec had both forms, and mixed them together before divvying it all up three ways.
Alec was the only one of us who had experience with a DMT trip. My other friend, Jay, and I stared as he set fire to his hit – a futile attempt to assess its effects by merely studying his reaction. After taking the hit, he sat back, closed his eyes and remained silent and relatively motionless for about fifteen minutes.
Upon coming down, his only response to our hasty inquiries was, “I partied with the gods.”
Rapid flashes of imagery overtook my consciousness, as though my life was flashing before my eyes. But it was more than just images. Emotions came and went with their respective images with the same intense frequency.
“Whatever the fuck that means,” I thought to myself, impetuous to the anticipation.
Jay went next and had a similar outward physical reaction. He seemed to enjoy it.
Uninterested in his vague recount of the experience, I hurried Alec to ready my hit.
I must once again pause and preface the experience that followed with three bits of relevant information (I promise there’s a method to my madness).
1. I’m not a heavy drug user. I smoke an exorbitant amount of marijuana on a daily basis, yes; but the proverbial ‘gateway’ to the ‘heavy shit’ has always been narrow. Other than pot, I’ve done psilocybin mushrooms twice, LSD four times, and salvia divinorum three times. I wasn’t foreign to hallucinogens prior to this experience.
However, none of them have really made me hallucinate. I’m a very rational person, and tend have a natural resistance to that aspect of hallucinogens. While I’ve had my visual world altered by them, I’d hardly call them hallucinations. They’re more like visual distortions, akin to that which can be applied to images in Photoshop. And I’ve always had control over them (e.g. “No, James, that salt-shaker isn’t really melting. You’re on acid, remember?”)
2. While I was brought up Christian, I’ve been an atheist since eleven or twelve years of age.
I remember seeing something on Discovery Channel about cults. The concept of cults scared me. Then I went to bed, woke up the next day, and went to church.
I looked around at the adults, fixated upon the man at the fore of the pews, repeating his words on cue with stout monotony. I was stricken with the realization that my family belonged to a cult. I’ve been an atheist ever since.
3. The following recount of my experience with DMT is going to sound like some crazy, far-out shit. It is. But I promise you, none of it is exaggerated. It is exactly what I remember seeing. No more, no less.